Comic Strip / On the Fastrack
On the Fastrack
is a comic strip by Bill Holbrook
(who also made Safe Havens
and Kevin & Kell
), launched by King Features Syndicate
in 1984. Its tech-centered humor is set in the offices of Fastrack, Inc., a company that stores all the world's data. For most of its run, it has starred Wendy Welding, the executive assistant of the CEO and the person who actually keeps things running. Nowadays, more time is given to Dethany Dendrobia, the corporate goth.
This comic contains examples of:
- Anthropomorphic Personification: One way to see characters like Autocorrect.
- Bad Boss: Rose Trellis, most of the time. And despite her business savvy, she sometimes veers to Pointy-Haired Boss.
- Big Little Brother: Rusty eventually got taller and heftier than Patina.
- Breakout Character: First Wendy Welding, then Dethany Dendrobia.
- Bumbling Dad: Art at times.
- Character Blog: Dethany tweets. Bud used to have a weekly blog.
- Child Prodigy: Every major kid in the comic.
- Crossover: Frequently with Safe Havens (see Shared Universe below). One noteworthy crossover in the early 2000s involved Rose Trellis and Jeanine Argus running for political office simultaneously, with scenes taking place in sequence in both comics.
- Floral Theme Naming: Rose Trellis, Thornton Saguaro, and Bud Spore.
- Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Dethany.
- Good Is Not Nice: Percy and Thrip don't like to admit it, but they attack technology in order to inspire humans to make it better. They have occasionally attempted drastic measures like dropping a heavy computer on an engineer. Another example could be Fistula Breech.
- The Hecate Sisters: Fastrack is run by the trio of CEO Rose Trellis (crone), her executive assistant Wendy Welding (the working mom) and Dethany Dendrobia (the maiden).
- Immortality: The computer bugs.
- Inside a Computer System: The action often moves there.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Dethany illustrates the importance of positive feedback with the example of a cartoonist learning how popular a minor character is. She doesn't know why she thought of it.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Autocorrect has loosened up at Percy's encouragement.
- May–December Romance: The marriage of Mark (younger) and Ada (older), to the initial consternation of Ada's children. The fact that Ada is black and Mark is white doesn't even come up.
- Percy is tens of thousands of years old, while Autocorrect is, well, younger than many readers. Funnily enough, this may be less significant in their case.
- Meaningful Name: Everyone has at least one.
- Meganekko: Patina Welding already was one as a toddler and still is as an 18-year-old.
- Menace Decay: Percy doesn't cause as much trouble as he used to. In fact, he's pretty much done a Heel–Face Turn, never cast as an outright antagonist anymore.
- Millennium Bug: Percy was introduced as "The Year 2000 Bug," equipped with an hourglass and a scythe. After the Turn of the Millennium, he usually went by "the Bug," until he divulged that the ancients called him Perseus. (He initially objected to the nickname Percy, but it's grown on him.)
- Motor Mouth: Fi's assistant. She chose him specifically to drive everyone else away from her office.
- The Nameless: Fi has yet to identify her assistant by name. Maybe she never quite caught it in his flash flood of words.
- Nerd: Bud Spore is the most glaring example.
- No Periods, Period: Averted. Patina Welding gets her first one, much to her father's embarrassment as he's asked to shop accordingly.
- Our Dragons Are Different: The Moat Monster is rarely even identified as a dragon, though she certainly has the key trappings of one. One difference is her Shapeshifting.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Thrip is now a data vampire.
- Out of Focus: Bob Shirt, former protagonist. An intentional example: According to the creator, the character "turned out to be so boring that the strip survived only by moving the spotlight away from him."
- His girlfriend Melody has been even more out of focus.
- The Moat Monster as well, but for a different reason: The cartoonist wants to move away from some of the more bizarre elements that may distract readers who came for other things. As Dethany's Mailbox explains, with more of the fantasy elements moved into cyberspace (e.g., Dethany's unicorn avatar), the "real-life" fantasy elements have been de-emphasized. The Moat Monster still exists, but in the form of a human with green hair.
- Has been happening with Wendy since Dethany's introduction.
- Perky Goth: Dethany Dendrobia.
- Perpetual Frowner: Fistula is determined to remain acid at all times.
- Pet the Dog: Fistula despises the air Dethany breathes, but when she finds that Dethany's going to use tax preparation software, she voluntarily goes through and does Dethany's taxes, saving her a lot of money, and has to be persuaded to accept pay for the work she did.
- Put on a Bus: Happens every so often, as we might expect from a comic that has run since 1984 without the rule of Status Quo Is God. One interesting example: Meg the Cyber Dog, who was getting old for software if not for a dog, got saved to a disk and hasn't been seen since.
- Right Behind Me: A mild example.
- Shared Universe: With Safe Havens. Havens' main character, Samantha, has a standing job offer from Rose (for whom Samantha's father works). Patina now attends the college that Samantha works at, staying in the dorm she's RA for. And now Rusty has joined the dorm.
- Sour Supporter: For all her unfriendliness, Fi does help Dethany in some big ways, including lending a temporary home.
- Status Quo Is God: Averted, as in all Bill Holbrook comics.
- Superheroes Wear Capes: iPatina's cyber-superhero cape looks like a cursor.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Rose isn't as bad as she used to be — barely. This may be an example of Pragmatic Villainy.
- Perhaps a better, if earlier, example is Art. He started the comic as a Jerk Ass, but for decades, his defining attributes have been laziness and technical ineptitude.
- Unicorn: Dethany's online avatar. Still goth.
- The Unsmile: Fi breaks from her usual dour demeanor here. By Contrived Coincidence, she and Dethany hear the sound of glass breaking at the same moment.
- Unsound Effect: Autocorrect's dictionary doesn't include sound effects like "pow," so her fight with a computer worm was accompanied by verbs like "pummel."
- Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Dethany has a raven called Lenore.
- Fi has come to accept a cowbird.
- Unwanted Assistance:
- Fi generally doesn't welcome Dethany's gestures of friendship. Not openly, anyway.
- Truth in Television: Autocorrect rarely gets any appreciation.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: OK, Fistula used to be a sweet young adult, until she felt betrayed.
- Visual Pun: Many. For example, Autocorrect has become a literal spelling bee.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: When Percy and Thrip (at least back in her computer bug days) wreak havoc on technology, it's secretly an attempt to get humans to improve it.
- Wretched Hive: The Malware Cafe is explicitly called a "wretched hive of scum and villainy" (quoting A New Hope).